The most notorious U.S. detention site in the world, Guantanamo Bay, still holds 40 prisoners. Most of the 800 men shipped to Guantanamo Bay since it was opened under George W. Bush in 2002 were sold to U.S. forces for bounty by Pakistani and Afghan officials, militia and warlords. They were stripped of their legal rights, held for years without being charged or given a fair and open trial. Not only is the detention center a recruiting dream for radical jihadists, it costs American taxpayers $0.5 billion a year, roughly $11 million dollars for each detainee.
www.democracynow.org – Wall Street Journal journalist Jess Bravin reports on the controversial military commissions at Guantanamo. Describing it as “the most important legal story in decades,” Bravin uncovers how the Bush administration quickly drew up an alternative legal system to try men captured abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks. Soon evidence obtained by torture was being used to prosecute prisoners, but some military officers refused to take part.
Far from having broken with his Republican predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama has now reinforced the law of exception that he criticised when he was a senator. It is now possible to deprive United States citizens of their fundamental rights because they have taken part in armed action against their own country, but also when they take a political position favourable to those who use military action to resist the Empire. Worse – Barack Obama has added to the law John Yoo’s “Unitary Executive theory,” which puts an end to the principles of the separation of powers as defined by Montesquieu. The security policy of the United States President now escapes all control.
Last week, the Canadian government received a formal request for the return of Omar Khadr from Guantánamo Bay. Julie Carmichael, an aide to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, told the Globe and Mail, “The government of Canada has just received a completed application for the transfer of prisoner Omar Ahmed Khadr. A decision will be made on this file in accordance with Canadian law.”
Before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there were only two ways of holding prisoners — either they were prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, or they were criminal suspects, to be charged and subjected to federal court trials.
That all changed when the Bush administration threw out the Geneva Conventions, equated the Taliban with al-Qaeda, and decided to hold both soldiers and terror suspects as “illegal enemy combatants,” who could be imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial, and with no rights whatsoever.
On Monday, November 28, 2011, students at UC-Davis occupied Dutton Hall, the University’s financial center, and held an all-day teach-in. Author/Journalist/Filmmaker Charles Shaw was one of the featured speakers. Here is his talk, “The History of Police Militarization in the US.”
For T. S. Eliot, April was the cruelest month, but for the prisoners at Guantánamo it is January — from the dashed hopes of January 2009, when President Obama swept into office issuing an executive order in which he promised to close the prison within a year, to January 2010, when, having failed to do so, he added insult to injury by issuing a moratorium preventing the release of 29 Yemenis cleared for release by his own Guantánamo Review Task Force, after his opponents seized on the revelation that a failed plane bomber on Christmas Day 2009 had apparently been recruited in Yemen.
Carol Rosenberg: Khadr confession ruled admissible by military judge
Carol Rosenberg is a senior journalist, currently with the McClatchy News Service. Rosenberg works at the Miami Herald, which has provided extensive coverage of the operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba.
The words bandied about by the government and the U.S. media surely must give those of us that can still think for ourselves a great deal of pause. It appears that just about everyone that opposes U.S. intervention in any country becomes an “insurgent”. Those that actually attack our troops in foreign countries automatically become “terrorists”. It doesn’t matter what pretext we storm into a country with U.S. troops with, those that oppose us are automatically dumped in the same category.
This is a deliberate attempt by the U.S. government, with mainstream media help, to frame the conflicts we find ourselves in. Just like in a debate we frame our ideas and opinions to score points with the judges and to back our opponents into a tightly weaved box. Our government does the same thing with describing those that differ with them. Rome described all peoples that didn’t belong to the Roman Empire as “barbarians”. America seems to have learned this lesson well. It worked so well for Rome, many people to this day believe that these civilizations, even those that were well advanced, were barbarians. Language is that powerful.
Last week, while the UK Court of Appeal was shining a spotlight on the case of Binyam Mohamed, ordering details of his torture by US agents to be revealed to the public, Binyam himself — a British resident, subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture, who was released from Guantánamo last February — was thinking about someone else.
Binyam was thinking about Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen, who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, and who now faces a trial in the much-criticized Military Commission trial system that was ill-advisedly resuscitated and revived by the Obama administration and Congress last summer. I have written extensively about Khadr’s case (and would be delighted if you checked out one of my favorite articles here), and was dismayed when Attorney General Eric Holder announced in November that Omar Khadr would face a trial by Military Commission.
Yesterday evening, the Associated Press reported that, in court filings, Justice Department lawyers stated that Attorney General Eric Holder has decided that a sixth Guantánamo prisoner — an Afghan named Obaidullah — will be put forward for trial by Military Commission. On November 13, when Holder announced that five prisoners — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — would face federal court trials for their alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks, he also announced that five other men, previously charged in the Bush administration’s Military Commissions, would be tried in revamped version of the Commissions that the administration and Congress concocted over the summer.
Last Tuesday, in a letter to Illinois governor Pat Quinn, five senior Obama administration officials — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano — announced that “the President has directed, with our unanimous support, that the Federal Government proceed with the acquisition” of Thomson Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison about 150 miles north-west of Chicago, to house prisoners from Guantánamo.
For anyone who has studied Guantánamo’s Military Commissions closely over the last eight years, it was obvious that their revival last week, in a supposedly new and improved form, was bound to be a disaster.
First dragged out of obscurity in November 2001 by Dick Cheney and his close advisors, specifically to secure the convictions of “terror suspects” in a system designed to allow evidence obtained through the use of torture, the Commissions failed twice before their recent reincarnation. In June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that they violated both the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and when they were revived by Congress later that year (with torture banned, but coerced evidence allowed at the discretion of the judges), they then stumbled from one disaster to another from March 2007 until January 2009, when President Obama suspended them.
So much for the First Amendment. Morris Davis, the retired Air Force Colonel who served as the Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo from September 2005 until his resignation in October 2007, has just lost his job at the Congressional Research Service (a branch of the Library of Congress) for writing, in his personal capacity, an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, in which he drew on his wealth of experience of the Commissions to criticize the Obama administration for its decision to prosecute some Guantánamo prisoners in federal courts, and others in Military Commissions, and a letter to the Washington Post, in which he criticized former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for scaremongering about the administration’s decision to try Guantánamo prisoners in federal courts.
In a letter dated November 20, Daniel P. Mulhollan, the director of CRS, told Col. Davis that he had not shown “awareness that your poor judgment could do serious harm to the trust and confidence Congress reposes in CRS,” and notified him that he would not be kept on after his one-year probationary period at CRS ends on December 21.
Last week, lawyer, ex-Army Captain and Iraq veteran Phillip Carter, described by Glenn Greenwald as “a very harsh critic of the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation policies,” suddenly resigned his post as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Policy, which he had occupied since April. Carter claimed that he was leaving due to “personal issues,” which may be true, but as Greenwald noted, “the policies Obama has adopted in the last six months in the very areas of Carter’s responsibilities were ones Carter vehemently condemned when implemented by Bush.”
Greenwald then proceeded to explain how, in May 2008, Carter had condemned the Bush administration’s Military Commissions (the trial system for Guantánamo prisoners) as “fundamentally and fatally flawed,” arguing that “the rule of law will prevail only if they are perpetually blocked,” and cited a trial in a “civilian court” (his emphasis) of accused terrorists in France that involved “a combination of open and sealed (i.e., classified) evidence to prove the defendants’ guilt in a six-day trial,” which he regarded as the only viable model for the United States to follow.